'I Love You Like a Brother' is out now

By Eric Renner Brown
October 06, 2017 at 04:23 PM EDT
Credit: Giulia McGauran

Who’s topping the charts, going viral, and ruling our earbuds? With Breaking Big, EW introduces the freshest music talent you have to hear now. Below, get to know the latest songwriting sensation from down under, Alex Lahey, whose gem of a debut album drops today.

Chaotic current events have inspired plenty of high-concept albums about world affairs (see: recent efforts from Arcade Fire and Father John Misty). I Love You Like a Brother, the debut LP from Melbourne’s Alex Lahey, is decidedly more prosaic — her songs analyze everyday minutiae from solitary moviegoers to a Barbarella poster on a lover’s wall — yet still riveting. “I don’t really go out of my way to put on some sort of persona,” she says. “My voice in my songs is very similar to my voice just as a general day-to-day communicator.”

That voice has already earned fans around the world. After studying saxophone as an adolescent, the 25-year-old began coupling her observational witticisms with jittery pop-punk riffs for her debut EP, 2016’s B-Grade University. The attention of Australian radio behemoth Triple J followed, as did Tegan and Sara, who took her on tour as an opener.

“That was an amazing experience,” Lahey recalls. “It was a pure act of generosity on their part.” The feeling’s mutual, Sara Quin tells EW. “I love Alex,” she says. “She is an awesome, confident, outspoken, queer person who is ready to kick down some doors in this world and in this music industry.”

After B-Grade helped Lahey iron out her studio acumen — “The EP was a massive learning curve,” she says — Brother finds her further honing her storytelling skills. “I enjoy the challenge of trying to write a song that I haven’t heard before,” she says of tunes like the title track, which is about improving her relationship with her younger brother.

While Lahey’s musical aesthetic channels recent touchstones — she cites the Killers and Paramore — her lyrical inspirations date further back. She says she draws heavily on the songwriting inclinations of Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen. “The thing I love about Bruce is that not every song is a love song,” she says. “He has these sensitive moments, but then there are some f—ing bangers — that’s a sign of really wonderful songwriting.”

Regarding her Boss fandom, Lahey recounts a story about the day she found out she’d be able to release a debut album. “I went out and bought a vinyl copy of Welcome to Asbury Park, which is obviously Bruce’s first record,” she says. “That signaled the start of me writing this record. Asbury actually didn’t do particularly well straight out of the gates and it fills me with hope, if I don’t do very well!”

But despite her wide-ranging influences, Lahey remains resolutely herself. “If I was to write something and be like, ‘I would never say that,’ then I wouldn’t put it in,” Lahey notes. “I don’t go out of my way to be anyone other than myself.”